Come September 11, Delhi University votes to elect its student body. Buoyed by its victory in the Assembly polls, the AAP’s students’ wing, the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), has entered the fray this year, giving a tough fight to the ABVP and NSUI. Shikha Sharma hits the campaign trail, talking to each party about their strategies and promises
Over the past few weeks at Delhi University’s North Campus, a multitude of colourful posters have taken over every inch of available space — from walls and vehicles to even statues. In bold print, the posters call out to each passerby to vote for their party in the upcoming DU Students’ Union (DUSU) polls on September 11. Billboards and hoardings across the campus also carry a similar appeals for votes. Even Vivekananda’s statue has not been spared.
Student elections at DU are usually a straight contest between the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Congress’s National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) every year.
With the entry of the AAP-backed Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) this year, the contest has literally turned into a slugfest. At stake are not just the four posts in the union, but also the larger political images of the three parent parties.
For the ABVP, this election is all about maintaining and consolidating its position of power while for the NSUI, it is about regaining lost ground. New entrant CYSS is looking to unsettle traditional equations and establish itself as a serious political player.
To do this, the parties have been going all out to out-do each other in wooing potential voters. “Forget issues and agendas. This election has become all about visibility, about making a statement. In order to win, what matters most is visibility. Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai (What is visible, sells),” says Sunny Kumar, from the All India Students’ Association (AISA) — the party being considered by many as the dark horse this poll season.
There isn’t a better place to see this in action than the university’s Law Faculty. Candidates walk around looking like human billboards, with stickers of their names and party stuck on their shirts, as they go around reminding passersby to vote for a particular number.
“Vote for Amit, number 37 for President,” says a tall, lanky youth while forcefully thrusting a flier in a student’s hand. Within minutes, another flier-laden candidate greets the student and asks for vote.
“It’s like a big circus. I have met so many people today that it is difficult to even remember names. Everyone is in such a hurry to ask for votes that they forget to tell why I should be voting for them in the first place,” says Rahul, a student at Campus Law Centre.
As quarrels between student factions often break out, police vans patrol the campus to keep a lookout for troublemakers.
According to police, over 60 FIRs have been registered so far against candidates and others affiliated to various student outfits for defacement of public property. But candidates continue to flout rules openly.
“Around 2 lakh students, especially those who scored 90 per cent and above, come to DU to study. One would expect to see a certain civility, or at least some issue-based campaigning. The CYSS, with its promise of politics without money or muscle power, did bring some hope. But the party has turned out to be no different from the others. Things only seem to have gotten worse,” says Savio, a Master’s student.
“I have been sitting on a dharna for the last 16 days demanding implementation of the Rent Control Act, right in the heart of the campus, but no party seems to have noticed me. It is one of the most pressing student issues. Candidates walk around asking for votes but they do not want to talk about students’ needs,” says Pravin Kumar, who has been sitting in protest at the Arts Faculty.
The parties admit that these elections are different from the previous ones, even as they downplay each other. “Yes, these elections are different from the previous DUSU elections, because for the first time we have a student body using unprecedented money power and government muscle to make its presence felt. Never before has there been the influx of so much money and the involvement of a political party in student elections. They have used their influence and money, even public funds for campaigning. It is unfortunate because the party has raised the bar for election expenditure for years to come,” says ABVP Delhi state secretary Saket Bahuguna, while hinting at the AAP’s alleged ‘overt’ involvement in the campaigning.
Seven months ago, the AAP swept to power in Delhi winning 67 out of 70 Assembly seats. “The CYSS has definitely raised the pitch and in consequence forced other parties to raise theirs’… Making our presence felt now is crucial to establish ourselves, not as a one-time phenomenon but as a party here to stay,” a CYSS party worker said.
All parties have left no stone unturned in reaching out to students. While the ABVP and NSUI tried to woo students with fresher parties and football tournaments, the CYSS had Roadies’ Raghu Ram welcoming freshers at college gates during the first day of the session.
“From selfie with the stars to the DU rock concert, we have done new things to reach out to students. The big parties are scared because they know we can win. That is why they are getting more aggressive,” claims CYSS vice-president Anmol Panwar.
Not wanting to be left behind, the ABVP has unleashed an entire army of volunteers in colleges, while the NSUI says it will prepare campus-wise manifestos to address maximum student demands.
In a first, parties even came out with opinion polls declaring their victory. The CYSS was the first to come up with an internal survey claiming victory with a 45 per cent vote share.
The ABVP and NSUI soon launched their own ‘internal surveys’ — claiming unprecedented victory. “If a party can shamelessly use the face of Arvind Kejriwal on its posters to get votes, you can imagine how low they are willing to stoop,” says Bahuguna.
All parties, however, are focused on one thing — to get as many students as possible to vote. “Usually 40 per cent of students vote in the elections. Our target is the remaining 60 per cent students who don’t turn up,” CYSS president Anupam told The Indian Express.
Whether DU students will actually heed the parties’ calls, remains to be seen.
Know your candidates
President Vice-President Secretary Joint secretary
ABVP Satinder Awana Sunny Dedha Anjali Rana Chattar Pal Yadav
NSUI Pradeep Vijayaryan Prerna Singh Amit Sehrawat Deepak Chaudhary
CYSS Kuldeep Bidhuri Garima Rana Rahul Raj Aryan Hitanshi Chauhan
AISA Sheetal Bhopal Sudhanshu Shekhar Ravi Kumar Abhinav Kumar
Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS)
To set itself apart from other contesting parties, the AAP’s students’ wing has decided not to issue a manifesto. Instead, it issued a “charter of demands” on Sunday. Under a campaign called “Sadda Haq”, the party released pamphlets of “rights” that students should demand from the university, the state government and the Central government
* Right to free Wi-Fi
* Women’s security
* Right to income: Employment opportunities for youth through job fairs
* Right to education: The AAP plans to launch a higher education loan scheme (under which students can avail loans up to Rs 10 lakh) three days before voting
* Hostel accommodation
Student Organisation of India (SOI)
The students’ wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is yet to decide on the campaign issues or its stand on the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS). It will contest the elections in three colleges — SGTB Khalsa, SGND Khalsa and SGGS College of Commerce
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)
It has appointed over 600 “vistaraks” (full-time volunteers) to manage and supervise the campaign in more than 50 colleges
* Pressure the Delhi government to implement the Room Rent Control Act
* Bring in the Paying Guest Regulation Act
* Secure atmosphere for Northeast students
* Hostel accommodation, especially for women students
* U-special buses, 40% concession on Metro card for students
* Printed marksheets for all students
* Supplementary exam for third-year students in case of mass failure
National Students’ Union of India (NSUI)
The Congress’ students’ wing is banking on students who are against the CBCS. Roji M John,
NSUI national president, said the organisation would release separate manifestos for each campus
* Hostel facility
* Women’s security
* Facilities for Northeast students
* Transport facilities, including feeder buses for Metro
All India Students’ Association (AISA)
The Left-wing AISA is being regarded by many as the dark horse. It has stiffly opposed the CBCS
* Hostel accommodation
* Women’s security
* Metro and bus passes for students
* Infrastructure development in colleges
SFI, INSO, Chanakya Parishad